Frequently asked questions about hypnotherapy
Q: What is hypnotherapy?
A: It may be best to begin with what hypnotherapy is not. Hypnotherapy is not stage hypnosis. Stage hypnotists are performers who are excellent at reading people. They seek extroverts who will put on a great show for the crowd. Whether or not their subjects are truly hypnotized is debatable, but they are willing to go along with the sometimes outrageous suggestions of the stage hypnotist. For many, hypnosis brings to mind a parlor game or nightclub act, where a man with a swinging watch gets volunteers to walk like a chicken or bark like a dog. But clinical, or medical hypnosis is more than fun and games. It is an altered state of awareness used by licensed therapists to treat psychological or physical problems.
During hypnosis, the conscious part of the brain is temporarily tuned out as the person focuses on relaxation and lets go of distracting thoughts. The American Society of Clinical Hypnotists likens hypnosis to using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully. When hypnotized, a person may experience physiologic changes, such as a slowing of the pulse and respiration, and an increase in alpha brain waves. The person may also become more open to specific suggestions and goals, such as reducing pain. In the post-suggestion phase, the therapist reinforces continued use of the new behavior.
During hypnotherapy, you remain in control. It is not possible for anyone to force you to do anything against your will, even under hypnosis. You will be tuned in to the work at hand, and so may not pay attention to your surroundings, but you will always be in charge of your own actions, behaviors and statements.
Q: Will I lose control while under hypnosis?
A: No. That is one of many myths about hypnosis that is furthered by the stage hypnotist and by television and the movies. The fact is that hypnosis is NOT at all about loss of control. As a hypnotherapist, I have exactly zero control over you. Zero! You come to me of your own free will. You make the decision to use hypnotherapy to help you better handle the issue(s) at hand. Look at it this way; Hypnosis is like two friends going on a road trip. One drives. One navigates (holds the map). You are the driver. I'm just helping you get to the destination. Together we will reach it.
Q: Can hypnosis make me do things against my will (i.e. rob a bank, commit murder, etc.)?
A: Once again, no. That's yet another bit of misinformation brought to you by your friendly neighborhood stage hypnotist and by the creative geniuses in Hollywood. Neither hypnosis nor the hypnotherapist can make you do anything against your will or anything that violates your own personal code of conduct. If fact, neither hypnosis nor the hypnotherapist can make you do anything at all. Not even cluck like a chicken.
Q: How does hypnotherapy help?
A: Most of the time, we are distracted by our surroundings. Whether the TV is blaring, your kids are demanding attention or your spouse wants to talk, it can be difficult to fully focus on yourself. In addition, our conscious minds are cluttered. You may be worried about paying a bill, concerned about an upcoming project or planning tonight’s dinner. Even during a therapy session, these day-to-day concerns tend to distract us from focusing on our problems.
In the hypnotic state, you are deeply relaxed. Your conscious mind is quieted, allowing your unconscious mind to deeply focus on your issue. Your hypnotherapist may make gentle suggestions for behavior changes that can help you conquer your phobia. Hypnosis -- or hypnotherapy -- uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness that is sometimes called a trance. The person's attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus his or her attention -- with the help of a trained therapist -- on specific thoughts or tasks.
Q: How does hypnosis work?
A: Hypnosis is usually considered an aid to psychotherapy (counseling or therapy), because the hypnotic state allows people to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds. In addition, hypnosis enables people to perceive some things differently, such as blocking an awareness of pain.
Hypnosis can be used in two ways, as suggestion therapy or for patient analysis.
Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes the person better able to respond to suggestions. Therefore, hypnotherapy can help some people change certain behaviors, such as stopping smoking or nail biting. It can also help people change perceptions and sensations, and is particularly useful in managing pain.
Analysis: This approach uses the relaxed state to find the root cause of a disorder or symptom, such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in his or her unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy.
Q: What are the benefits of hypnosis?
A: The hypnotic state allows a person to be more open to discussion and suggestion. It can improve the success of other treatments for many conditions, including:
Phobias, fears, and anxiety
Grief and loss
Hypnosis also might be used to help with pain control and to overcome habits, such as smoking or overeating. It also might be helpful for people whose symptoms are severe or who need crisis management.
Q: Is hypnosis dangerous?
A: Hypnosis is not a dangerous procedure. It is not mind control or brainwashing. A therapist cannot make a person do something embarrassing or that the person doesn't want to do.
Q: Who performs hypnosis?
A: Hypnosis is performed by a licensed or certified mental health professional who is specially trained in this technique. In Colorado, check with the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to verify that your hypnotherapist is licensed.